Doing What You Love, Doing What You Must

Johnny From Asbury ParkThe world is filled with phrases like, “Do what you love and the money will come.”
Maybe that works for some people. I know it doesn’t work for everyone, and a large number of people I know do what they love, but they also do what they must.

The world we live in is one where the majority of people do what they must. That person behind the cash register at that fast food place? I’d bet that they’d be willing to do something else that they loved more, if they could only get paid for it. And that person bagging your groceries? That’s not something many people aspire to, but they do it. Passionate trash collectors do exist, but they’re rare. That plumber that has to clear that toilet for you probably wishes that they were out fishing for fish instead.

Telling people to do what they love is irresponsible in this way. You have to do what you must.

Back in the 1990s, I was restarting my career as a software engineer after the Navy – I got a great job. I also wrote, and I read my own poetry at a few places – good places. I was encouraged, which is healthy – but one man, a jaded boxer of a man, pulled me aside and told me that I couldn’t do both… that I couldn’t be both a software engineer and a writer, that both would consume me. He wasn’t wrong.

But with bills and responsibilities that, in retrospect, weren’t really mine but were labors of love – I had to choose to do what I had to do. I chose to do what I must. Were it just me, I probably would have focused solely on writing, a passion of mine that I would willingly have sacrificed myself for – but not others. Every time I turned around, someone else’s bill needed to be paid, someone needed a car, someone needed help with college, someone… and so, it wasn’t just me. So I did what I had to do, and stayed on the software engineering side of things, making the money while I could, writing as I could.

In all, I ended up doing a lot of things I didn’t like over the years. I don’t know anyone who has lived a full life who hasn’t had to do things that outright sucked. I don’t know anyone of worth that did what they loved alone.

No, everyone does as they must… until the day they can afford to do what they love.

Do what you must. Do what you love as you can.

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